The overwhelming favourites heading into Euro 2020, France crashed out in the round of 16 after failing to ever really get going at the tournament.
The team who took the World Cup by storm in 2018 had to limp past Germany, drew with both Hungary and Portugal and then capitulated late on against Switzerland to bring an end to one of the most underwhelming summers in recent memory.
The 2022 World Cup is right around the corner, and there’s a lot France need to figure out before then.
Didier Deschamps has his tried-and-trusted group of players who have done so well under him in the past, but his loyalty to them cost France this summer.
There are (and this is hardly an exaggeration) hundreds of centre-backs who deserved to start against Switzerland more than Clement Lenglet. He hasn’t been good for Barcelona but was mindlessly thrust into this enormous spotlight, where his poor form was mercilessly exploited.
Neither Adrien Rabiot nor Corentin Tolisso had done enough to earn a spot in this squad either, and their presence contributed to four games of uncertainty in France’s midfield. They couldn’t fit into any system and Deschamps was too determined to make it happen.
France have arguably the deepest talent pool on the planet at the moment, and Deschamps needs to realise that.
Youthful enthusiasm was a large part of France’s 2018 success. Mbappe was the obvious focal point, but full-backs Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez did their thing and helped provide a spark.
That je ne sais quoi was missing this summer, but France have so many players capable of bringing it back next year and for years to come.
At the back, it’s time to build around youngsters like Dayot Upamecano, Wesley Fofana, Jules Kounde and Theo Hernandez.
Move further forward and you’ll find a long list of players who merited a spot in the squad more than Thomas Lemar. Why not Moussa Diaby, Jonathan Ikone, Allan Saint-Maximin or Jonathan Bamba?
However, if France only fix one spot, it has to be…
Rabiot, Tolisso and Moussa Sissoko should have been nowhere near this squad. None were at the required level and Deschamps was constantly made to chop and change to try to find a way to make it work.
N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba make up the scariest midfield duo in world football, but the drop in quality down to the third midfielder is alarming, to say the least.
Christopher Nkunku, Eduardo Camavinga, Boubakary Soumare, Aurelien Tchouameni, Boubacar Kamara, Houssem Aouar, Maxence Caqueret, Jordan Veretout… the list of more-deserving alternatives goes on.
Either pick players who are actually suited to the system, or come up with a set-up that doesn’t hang underperforming players out to dry.
Sure, he’s the famous captain. Lloris has served with class and excellency since his debut in 2009, but the reality is he is not France’s best goalkeeper. No way.
Mike Maignan should have started this summer after leading Lille to the Ligue 1 title. You could even suggest that Monaco’s Benjamin Lecomte should have been ahead of Lloris in the pecking order.
As we head towards the 2022 World Cup, Leeds’ Illan Meslier, Nantes Alban Lafont and Angers’ Paul Bernardoni must all be considered as well.
Lloris will go down as an icon of the France national team, but he’s at risk of overstaying his welcome.
In four games at Euro 2020, France tried four different formations: 4-3-3, 4-3-1-2, 4-2-3-1 and the infamous 3-4-1-2 that saw them capitulate against Switzerland.
Deschamps invented a tactic which was impossible to play against in 2018, but he only used it once here – in the 2-2 draw with Portugal, which saw Tolisso underwhelm as a right-winger (obviously).
Did the return of Karim Benzema mess things up? France had prepared themselves with target man Olivier Giroud but left themselves just a few weeks to alter things completely.
The boss needs to find something that works and stick to it. There’s 18 months to sort that out.
32 touches in the penalty area. One falling out with his teammates. Zero goals.
Mbappe just didn’t seem himself at all this summer, and France have to figure out why quick, because players of his otherworldly talent need to be maximised.
The PSG man may have been worrying about his future at club level. He might have been feeling the pressure of living up to expectations. There have even been suggestions that he spat his dummy out after being told to share the limelight with Karim Benzema.
This was a serious reality check for Mbappe, who has learned that the world is not actually his plaything. How he bounces back from that could define France’s future.
This final point is all about who you attribute the blame to for this summer’s humiliation.
Did the players just not get it right, or was Deschamps guilty of picking the wrong players and failing to find a way to mesh them all together?
There are too many reasons to point the finger at Deschamps. Sure, he has worked wonders for the country, but he looked out of ideas here and now needs to spend his time putting the pieces back together.
With Zinedine Zidane waiting in the wings, it might be the time to say au revoir.